The Checkout checks back in as brands face more scrutiny from consumer champion

The scourge of marketers and PR firms, The Checkout, returns to ABC tonight with executive producer Julian Morrow promising to again lift the lid on misleading claims, shoddy customer service and suspect business ethics.

The third series of the consumer affairs show, created by the team behind The Chaser, will kick off with an expose of “clinically proven wonder cream” and a focus on the treatment of a customer who bought a Jeep.

Its return comes as legal action still hangs over the show following a segment in the first episode of series one back in 2013, which questioned the relationship between vitamin brand Swisse and the National Institute of Integrative Medicine which carried out clinical trials of Swisse products.



The action was taken out by the Institute’s founder Avni Sali, the father of Swisse-founder Radek Sali’s. He claims the show “damaged his reputation and standing”.

Morrow told Mumbrella that mediation broke down, with the matter now set to be heard in the Victorian Supreme Court.

“We stand by the content of the show” he said, adding the ABC shared its stance.

Despite the legal proceedings, Morrow didn’t rule out a further poke at Swisse. Nothing has been planned but the show likes to “fall back on old jokes”, he quipped.

Although only one litigation is hanging over The Checkout, Morrow said it has received many letters from a “flotilla of PR companies and legal firms trying to protect the business interests of their clients”.

Among those facing scrutiny in the new series are telcos, movie streaming companies and car hire firms while producers may dedicate an entire episode to weddings.

“We’ve not decided if we’ll do that yet but it will look at how you deal with issues for an event that cannot be repeated,” Morrow said.

He said mobile phone plans will be explored and described some of the marketing as being deliberately confusing, offering a “faux dollar value” for things “you cannot get your head around”.

Claims are often “overstated” and designed to “ensnare” customers, he said.

The first two series of The Checkout struck a chord with the public as it became one of the few TV programs to explore consumer rights’, with audiences regularly hitting 750,000 and some episodes pulling in well above 800,000.

Morrow said the concept of the third series will remain the same – to take the dry but essential topic of Australian Consumer Law and make it accessible and meaningful to the very people it is designed to protect.

Too often consumers are “stone walled” as brands attempt to pull the wool over their eyes, he said.

“I like the idea of making serious points in a silly manner,” Morrow said. “Fewer things are duller than Australian Consumer Law but it’s a really important issue than few people understand.

“We are on the side of our viewer, the consumer, and want to present things in an engaging way that tells people what their rights are.”

He added: “We are looking at factual situations but are not adverse to fart jokes. It is evidence-based satire.”

Tonight’s first episode, which airs at 8pm, will see presenter Kirsten Drysdale create a “new wonder cream” called Rejuvalize with the aim of exposing the “clinically proven” claims made by cosmetic companies.

Tests of Rejuvalize – which The Checkout created from $2.99 home-brand sorbolene and a “squirt of Aloe Vera After Sun Care to make it smell nice” – showed that “100 per cent of users reported that their skin felt more youthful” and that “80 per cent of users reported looking younger and healthier”.

The show said: “It will make you wonder if you’re really getting what you think you’re paying for when you buy those expensive skin creams”.

Tonight’s episode will also take up the case of Aston Wood who says he was told by Jeep to apologise to them during a legal dispute with a paid advert in the Australian Financial Review.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 12.36.19 PMThe Checkout did produce an advert for Wood, but one the show said the AFR refused to run.

Steve Jones


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